A Lurgan woman who is battling breast cancer today spoke of the great comfort her family have received at a pioneering support centre for cancer patients.
Angela Scullion, a 46-year-old who was diagnosed in January, is among almost 5,000 people who have used the Macmillan Support and Information Centre at Belfast City Hospital since it opened in December last year.
She and her husband Jim, also 46, visited the centre again today to take part in a tree planting ceremony.
Since her devastating diagnosis, the mother-of-two has had surgery, chemotherapy and has just finished radiotherapy.
Angela and Jim went to the Lisburn Road centre soon after it had opened and have used a number of services on offer.
Angela said: "We really don't know what we would have done if it hadn't been here to help us. I have been able to get detailed information on my condition and it has been great to have people to talk to about any concerns.
"I have also had aromatherapy and my husband and I have both enjoyed hypno-relaxation, a four week course which teaches easy, effective techniques."
Jim said that his wife's diagnosis was a confusing time for the family.
"The diagnosis was a shock. It was a tough time for us as a family but we have learned to cope with it," he said.
"Once the diagnosis was made, we were just bombarded with information. Because so much is going on at that time, a lot of it doesn't really sink in.
"The centre is a great place to come and get all the little bits of information you need. You can also just sit and have a cup of coffee and a chat with someone who knows what it's like."
Belfast City Hospital, Action Cancer, the Friends of the Cancer Centre, Macmillan Cancer Support and Ulster Cancer Foundation have all collaborated to fund services within the centre, which is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.
Patients, carers and families from all over Northern Ireland can access support through a variety of services, including counselling, complementary therapies and a wig-fitting service - all of which are free of charge.
The work to renovate and design the interior of the listed terrace that houses the Support and Information Centre was funded by charity Macmillan Cancer Support to the tune of £1.3m.
Heather Monteverde, general manager of Macmillan in Northern Ireland said: " We are delighted that the centre been so well utilised by people affected by cancer over the past nine months.
"It is a real testament to what can be achieved when organisations come together to create services that people tell us they need."
Consultant clinical psychologist Professor Robin Davidson, who is the centre director, emphasised the need for good psychological care as well as physical care for cancer patients throughout Northern Ireland.
"We know that accessible support and information can improve not only the quality of life of our patients, but can also contribute to their physical recovery. This new unit is part of a comprehensive approach to cancer care in the Belfast City Hospital," he said.
Since the centre opened its doors nine months ago over 4,900 people have used its services - including almost 1,000 people who asked for information, 718 people who attended for wig-fitting, over 160 people who made use of the counselling services and over 250 who came for complementary therapies. The number of people attending classes including yoga, meditation or Tai Chi is now also in the hundreds.
> For more information, telephone the Macmillan Support and Information Centre on 028 9069 9201.